Under the tenure of Wade Phillips, this article took a different tone entirely. I had all of the pretty statistics lined up – steadily solid, generally good and sometimes superlative numbers assembled in an attempt to assuage dissenters that we had a severely under appreciated football guru on our hands. One who would only get better with time like scotch or fine wine. One who would only get better with a new found focus on the offensive line. One who would only get better with a defense that wouldn’t slowly wither like a fresh cut rose that flashes its deified form but in reality only festers. I was going to point out that Red Headed Jesus has been shackled by the G.M., that our offense has featured Patrick Crayton as a number 2 and Julius Jones as our main running back and found success. That we've been forced to feature Roy Williams as a number 2 (the pass dropping, sloppy route running #11) because of our G.M.'s refusal to acknowledge he was fleeced and still been a top offense in the league. That slowly all of those explosive down field plays that confounded opposing defensive coordinators in Jason Garrett's first season as an O.C. have been scaled back, and our chain moving All-Pro tight end Jason Witten has been grounded and found more use as a blocker than a pass catcher due to our inept line in an almost prescient attempt to keep Tony Romo from being slammed mercilessly into the turf like tackling dummy Jay Cutler by the opposing defense; and still found success. But I digress, I'm going to put the past 8 weeks behind me. I'm going to put the last 3 years behind me. I'm going to worry about how the Cowboys are going to be excellent now. About how they're going to be put in the best position to be excellent everyday heading into the future with RHJ at the helm.
My man Igor Olshansky, a member of the overtly run fixated 3-4 defense assembled by Wade Phillips and an immediately foreseeable future free agent from the Dallas Cowboys, really struck a cord with his recent comments. He wanted the offense to run the ball more and stop passing so much. Running the ball more, he figures in his laymen albeit everyman thinking, will prevent bad things from happening. What Igor doesn’t realize is that what he really wants is better field position. The defense has been coddled by the top field position in the NFL, they don’t have 75 yards of runway to cool the other teams’ jets anymore. In a sense though, now he has a point even if it was poorly presented and even more terribly directed. If the offense needs to put up 50 points for the defense to succeed but doesn't, then both have failed. If the defense needs to pitch a shut out against the New England Patriots in order that we may win by a field goal and doesn't, then both have failed. We need to stop thinking in the black and white terms that only pitted the team against one another; that caused so much division and derision among fans. The Berlin wall separating the offense and defense has been taken down, and now this team can truly be unified. Win as a team, lose as a team. The Dallas Cowboys can stop doing and simply be, the real hidden genius of Jason Garrett is unleashed.
The question that begs though is this, how did we come to this point? I recall a post by 5blings saying that RHJ and Wade Phillips were internally at odds and couldn’t coexist. That the team couldn’t succeed with such a dual nature. I scoffed at that notion, namely because they did coexist, and the team had succeeded. Jason Garrett never directly challenged Wade Phillips’ authority. We all overlooked one thing though, the psychological impact this had in the weak willed locker room. R.H.J. and Wade are classy, both extremely virtuous men in their own rights; the same can’t always be said for the players. Dissension and a lackadaisical approach didn't exist in front office, but it slowly creeped its way into the locker room. It's human nature, look at Igor; it's always easier to heap the blame elsewhere than really having to take a long hard look in the mirror. DeMarcus Ware seemed enthused by the promotion of RHJ and loved the new tone that was being set on the field, but he hadn't had too much interaction with the man himself. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Wade undercut RHJ's capacity as a coach everyday without intending to do so, parasitically. He undercut the players' potentials and their desire to constantly improve themselves. It's like a child whose parents are polar opposites, one letting them eat cake for dinner and stay up late at night; while the stern yet loving disciplinarian is forced to bite their tongue in order to keep the peace. Such a relationship will not last, can not last.
If you paid attention though, RHJ would give us a glimpse of what's to come with him subtly; his metagame has always been in full effect behind the scenes. I was going to touch on this subject briefly originally, but now I feel it should be brought to the forefront with the recent change of events instead of gaudy numbers and rankings.
I first noticed these sublime actions after 2008, when one Terrell Eldorado Owens caused quite a stir among the offense. He had just signed a huge 34 million 4 year contract extension and everyone in the media swore up and down that our offense ran through T.O.; everyone clamored for him to get the ball more. Terrell even took it upon himself to openly criticize RHJ's play calling that had him consistently putting up top numbers in the league. Huge mistake. Despite taking a 9 million dollar cap hit that year the Cowboys and Jerry Jones released Eldorado. Nobody knows who exactly called for his head, ostensibly I'm sure it was Jason Garrett but can't say for certain; the press always said that it was Stephen who moved Jerry's hand. Since then though, no other Cowboy until Igor has openly criticized Jason Garrett in his tenure at the Dallas Cowboys. T.O. still bears a grudge against our RHJ, is that a sign of what truly occurred behind the scenes at Valley Ranch?
Let's compare and contrast.
Kevin Ogletree, our speedy free agent wide receiver impressed in the 2009 training camp. His hard work was rewarded, and in 2009 he was given an offensive package that showcased his talents and was brought onto the field and given a taste of the sweet ambrosia that is being a playmaker for the Dallas Cowboys. 90,000 adoring fans cheering your every move on the field, people recognizing you on the streets. Bloggers on BTB proudly exclaiming "Free the Ogletree"! This year KO has yet to even suit up for a football game. Barring a string of injuries he will not do so either, Jason Garrett was obviously angered by his lack of commitment in the off season, so Kevin's repeated gaffes during the training camp this year earned him a prime spot on the bench. Every time I see a shot of Kevin Ogletree on the sideline I can see the machinations in his head turning, he must do whatever it takes to get on that field. He can be a difference maker taking on that sweet single coverage Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are sure to leave him. He let down his coach, but most importantly he's letting himself down. He had the whole world going for him and got lazy, now he's suffering the consequences.
Martellus Bennett, our immature and yet immensely gifted tight end looked like he was going to break through in 2009 as well, being prominently featured in an unstoppable juggernaut that was dubbed the "double dynamite", our two tight end set. In his time on the field though, he hasn't been unchained nearly as much as he should, and why is this? Because he has his head firmly affixed between his buttocks. Dr. Garrett picked choice routes for the show boating Martellus Bennett, namely the route where he tries to go block a linebacker until he showed he deserved to run choice routes in the NFL. John Phillips our fallen soldier was hot on the heels of Bennett, and he took notice. John Phillips was being rewarded for his hard work and seemed poise to eat into Marty B's audience in 2010, making huge plays in game situations during the preseason. Martellus took notice, he's been doing a lot better with his knowledge of the playbook this year, and he has even closed his Youtube account, showing signs that the surgery has been successful. Stinky as though his head may now be, I get the feeling that the stitches around Marty's neck and shoulders are starting to take hold and he can now walk around with the rest of humanity. We can only speculate the type of fire that would have been lit under Marty B when he saw John Phillips making more receptions and scoring more touchdowns in 2010 than he did.
Did anybody else notice last week that Sam Hurd hit the field, and Dez Bryant was prominently featured in the successful scoring drive before the half? Recent press clippings even have Roy Williams rumbling about his decreased role on the offense, that's because Jason Garrett has seen Uno Uno's ceiling and despite all of his hard work he still can't run every route correctly, still comes out of his breaks slowly. Do we really think the offense is more potent with Austin, Bryant and Williams? Or would you rather see Dez and Miles in the X and Z slots and quick Sam Hurd in the Y (which is when Sam hit the field and made a few catches too)? The writing is on the wall, I don't know if it's realistic to expect Roy to be a Dallas Cowboy next year. Call him a progress stopper. I'm loving Roy Williams this year but we're going to have to move forward. These are the types of decisions that Wade can't bring himself to make. This is the type of decision that's already been made by RHJ.
During the Titans game it only took a few drives until Davis was benched for Holland. Garrett immediately identified the problem and did his best to plug it only to have Wade Phillips absentmindedly announce after the press conference that Davis our pro bowler would be starting the following week; a solution to a problem that was undercut by the head coach. And RHJ rolled with it, he knew his place at the time.
Regardless, the common thread I see is a coach who puts forth an effort to play the best players and rewards hard work and dedication while using playing time as a stout message to the underachievers. I see a no nonsense coach that does indeed have a belief in how his team should be shaped and what type of effort he demands from every practice, every snap, every game. I also see a great leader of men who had to take a back seat to Wade in order to not rock the boat.
Look at the other side of the ball, Alan Ball has been blowing assignments all year, leaving the rest of the team out to dry. You don't think the other 11 starters noticed that he's still our starting Free Safety even after all of his back breaking mistakes? You don't think that Igor had already been advised repeatedly as far as excessive celebration when he broke out his Russian jig? I'm sure Anthony Spencer and sadly even DeMarcus Ware stopped thinking about disappointing the team and started recklessly abandoning their gap assignments to try to pad their sack stats. Mike Jenkins and Gerald Sensabaugh decided that making tackles were optional at this point under Wade's tenure. The children have to go to sleep early to go to school in the morning, but Wade can't get them to do it because they're hopped up on sugar, throwing temper tantrums, and are too used to watching Adult Swim until 2 or 3 in the morning so they aren't even really sleepy.
The mentality of this team was not only dysfunctional, it was downright bipolar; as is the talent. Why is everyone so excited just from a few press conferences with RHJ and a few details about practicing with pads? Because that's what this team sorely needs. This is our coach of the future, the Ravens threw their head coaching position at him. They said he seemed more like a presidential candidate than a head coach. His quick calculated answers show the command it takes to stand up to the media in Dallas. Jimmy Johnson said he was worn out by the childlike tenacity with which Jason Garrett pestered him with questions about coaching. The old Dallas Cowboys players are genuinely excited about RHJ as our head coach. He's learned from Saban, he's learned from Jimmy, he's seen a championship team from the inside out. He knows what it takes to be a successful player in this league. He knows the new mindset of football and why stop the run and run the ball is no longer an unquestioned absolute, that the game is an ever evolving beast and if you don't adapt you will get left in the dust. He knows which strings to pull to get something accomplished in the organization, if there was ever a coach to be firm to Jerry while still being able to flow with his tendencies it's Jason Garrett. I also hope that he did take a few pages from Wade. I think rewarding players can be a huge motivator, but only if they earn it. In that sense I also hope he takes pages from Wade of what not to do.
This Sunday we'll see the culmination of the underpinnings Jason is establishing at Valley Ranch and all we an do is eagerly await. Will there be roster shake ups? Will you see players on the bench after they make mistakes? Will you see these players playing with fire in their bellies and their hearts on their sleeves? I think it may take a while to adjust, but historically we can come to expect all of this from RHJ and more.
Now the players can all unite and move forward together as a whole. Red Headed Jesus, the savior of our Dallas Cowboys?
Regardless, even RHJ is going to need every experience and sparking brain cell in his body if he's going to get us to the promised land in these coming years. Like I touched upon earlier, he can only drag us as far as he can pull the heavy ball and chain. Our roster is a disaster, our defensive and offensive lines are in disarray, our secondary has collapsed, our inside linebackers are either too old and worn down or too young and brittle, and our running backs are showing hesitation from the domino effects of our line literally being a group of dominoes collapsing one after another in order.
If there's anything this roster resembles it's the General Manager and owner. Jerral was a good old boy who brought in Jimmy Johnson and brought together our beloved triplets, he's the owner that genuinely wants to win and is willing to do anything in his power for the Cowboys to succeed. Mr. Jones is a ruthless marketer who has the propensity to make people question his true intentions with the Dallas Cowboys. He's the same egotistical maniac that cut Jimmy Johnson and threw this team into a deep dark pit that was only overcome by Bill Parcells until he too was cast down. He is hellbent to win another Superbowl and win it his way, making enough questionable trades and poor draft decisions to balance out the hits on superstars. He's out taking pictures with women young enough to be his granddaughters while the Cowboys lay trembling at 1 and 7. With Jerry Jones possessing two almost separate identities is it any wonder the locker room has such a schism? Is it any wonder there are players on our roster who think they're automatically successful and are willing to rest on their laurels without truly ever making that next step? Is it any wonder why undeserving players get huge paydays going on reputation alone? Why are the Cowboys paying 19.2 million dollars for our offensive line while paying 21.6 million dollars on wide receivers this year? Why did Marion Barber make 7.9 million dollars this year? More than Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, LaDanian Tomlinson, Michael Turner, Frank Gore, Steven Jackson and almost as much as Reggie Bush?
More on the next installment, The Benevolent Dr. Jerral and The Incorrigible Mr. Jones.